Today, the film succeeds mainly as a critique of the counter-culture, of the commune experiment of the 1960s-1970s and, simultaneously an all-guns blazing defense of the traditional family structure, or what some left-leaning scholars might not-so-happily call "the Patriarchy."
This is an unacceptable way of living to the formerly "free," savage, Brutals and so rebellion results.The Eternals interfered with their destiny to be killers...turning them into farmers serving a higher class, and populist revolt is the solution.
"Who conjured you out of the clay?"
|The false god, Zardoz calls to the Brutals in the futuristic landscape of Zardoz.|
"A better breed could prosper here. Given time..."
The joys of sex and procreation have also been forsaken in this futuristic commune. Without children, there is no real sense of the future. Only the continuance of the present, the status quo. Without children, a culture cannot be healthy, because it can not look past its own selfish needs at the needs of the race; at the needs of a future generation. This is another example of the Eternal's stagnation.
Even sleep itself has been vanquished in the Eternal commune, replaced by active, second-level meditation. Interestingly, Zardoz positions sleep – and dreaming – as an essential quality of healthy humanity. Consuella observes Zed sleeping and then awaking from a dream, and it is clear that he finds dreaming restorative. It is a "changed" mind-state, a release from the drudgery of the Eternal existence, and without it, the Eternals are empty. They have no change; so they cannot brace transformation; transcendence.
The Tabernacle informs Consuella that "Sleep was necessary for Man when his waking and unconscious lives were separated. As Eternals achieved total consciousness, sleep became obsolete, and Second-Level meditation took its place. Sleep was closely connected with death."
Sleep was closely connected with death; perhaps that is what makes life meaningful; the omnipresent threat and presence of mortality in our daily cycle. With this "state" of consciousness gone, the Eternals have forsaken some essential quality of humanity. Death has been banished not just from their physicality, but from their very psyche.
|Consuella (right) sizes up Zed's manhood; while a screen behind her charts the trajectory of his erection.|